The fight for LGBTQ rights didn’t end with the many legal victories over same-sex marriage a few years ago. If anything else, the recent decision of the Supreme Court to not hear Gavin Grimm’s case on trans discrimination (he was fighting to be able to use the bathroom of his choice at his school), proves that the trans community in particular are facing many obstacles to leading healthy and happy lives. It is within this context that a new documentary, Raising Zoey, has been making the film festival rounds.
The doc follows a year in the life of Zoey Luna, a 13-year-old girl living in California with her mother, Ofelia, and her older sister, Letty. Like many other girls her age, Zoey wants nothing more than to enjoy her life and have a great group of friends. But facing a willfully ignorant and intolerant community, especially at her school, made her childhood and teenage years a difficult time in her life. Chronicling the support she got from her mother and sister and the eventual legal fight they all became involved in as they sought to protect Zoey’s right to self-expression at school, Raising Zoey puts a Latina face on the ongoing battles trans youth have to wage every day.
Watching Zoey become an unwitting and quite charming advocate for trans rights, equally at home posing next to Orange is the New Black‘s Laverne Cox at red carpets and comfortably speaking out about what she’s been through to the press, is one of the great joys of Raising Zoey. That, of course, and seeing the great affection her mother has for her beautiful trans daughter in candid moments at home throughout the doc.
“Zoey isn’t special because she’s transgender,” her mom says at one point in the doc, “Zoey’s special because she’s my daughter.” It’s as simple and as empowering a message as trans youth need and precisely what makes Raising Zoey such an urgent and welcome project in 2017. The film was directed by Dante Alencastre, who’s also behind the equally moving Transvisible: The Bamby Salcedo Story, yet another portrait of a fearless trans Latina activist who founded the Los Angeles-based TransLatin@ Coalition. Check out the full trailer below.